Traditionally, men are raised to be self-sufficient, tough, and to protect their family and property. But what happens when the strong protector needs help? Fear of appearing weak or vulnerable, being unable to meet responsibilities or serve the role they expect of themselves can lead men to feel that they are a burden and that those around them might be better off if they ended their life. Men are less likely than women to reach out to mental health professionals or even to talk about their problems with doctors, family members and friends.
To compound this, the signs of suicide among men are easily misinterpreted. Their despair may be concealed by stoicism, recklessness, drug or alcohol abuse, excessive working, isolation, irritability, anger or resentment. This can have the effect of further isolating men from those around them, pushing away the very people who would be in the best position to help. Suicidal despair and depression may be also hidden behind behaviors that tend to elicit less sympathy. Many men at risk are involved in the criminal justice system, and have financial or employment problems. They may be having problems with intimate partners, be involved in custody disputes, or be perpetrators of domestic violence.
More than two-thirds of suicides in California were among men, and half of all suicide deaths occurred by firearm from 1993-2013. But most suicidal crises are short-lived; putting time and space between a suicidal person and highly lethal means can mean the difference between life and death.
In 2017, the California Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) law went into effect. It establishes a process to allow law enforcement and/or immediate family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from a person at risk of harm to self or others. The website SpeakForSafety.org outlines the steps in the GVRO process and links to additional information and resources.
How can you help?
- Know the Signs. Learn when and how to help someone you are concerned about. Visit SuicideIsPreventable.org to learn the warning signs, how to have a conversation with someone you’re concerned about, and to find resources in your area.
- You are not alone, there is help. The San Diego Access & Crisis Line (1-888-724-7240) is available 24/7, in Spanish and English and other languages, and with special services if you are a veteran or concerned about one. Chat services are also offered. Through Lifeline you or your loved one can be connected to a trained counselor who can help.
- Trust your feelings. If you think something might be wrong, don’t hesitate to ask your friend or loved one if he is considering ending his life. Be persistent and don’t give up. You won’t put the idea in his head or make his situation worse by letting him know he is important to you, that you care and you want to help.
If you recognize that your own depression and thoughts of suicide are starting to overwhelm you, call the Lifeline or talk to a friend. People care about you and will want to support you. It is not a sign of weakness to reach out: it takes strength and courage.
Learn more about resources that have been developed specifically to help men. Man Therapy (ManTherapy.org) is an interactive website that provides practical tools for men to assess their mental health and find support. Watch the real stories of men who have struggled with mental health challenges and suicidal feelings, but who found help and overcame. For more information, visit Up2SD.org.